- Associated Press - Saturday, September 30, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - Staff turnover in Arizona’s long-struggling child protection agency appears to be down slightly, but data shortcomings mean auditors can’t be sure, the state Auditor General’s Office said.

The Department of Child Safety’s turnover rate in the fiscal year that ended June 30 was 28.7 percent, down from 30.1 percent in the previous fiscal year, a report released Friday said.

However, the auditors caution that “data inconsistencies” in the department’s turnover reports mean it can’t be definitively stated that turnover actually decreased between the two past fiscal years.

Turnover rates for child welfare workers matter because turnover can affect the outcomes of cases and result in additional costs to agencies, the report said.

The department has increased pay, improved training and supervision, reduced workloads and implemented a peer-support program to boost staff retention. But it should continue steps to reduce turnover, particularly among case workers, the auditors said.

They also said the department should continue to bolster staff training by taking steps such as implementing an annual training requirement and monitoring completion of training.

Of 11 case aides interviewed as they left the agency, all rated pay and benefits as poor or fair, and they also listed pay as one of the two top factors in what prompted them to depart, the report said.

In a response to the report, the department acknowledged the discrepancies in turnover data cited by the auditors and said a new procedure has been implemented to correct the problem.

The department also said it taking steps to improve retention, including looking for ways “to address salary concerns.”

However, the auditors’ suggestion that the department give a hiring preference to applicants with a degree in social work or related experience drew a cool response. The department said it removed a preference like that several years ago in order to fill vacancies and doesn’t think that reinstating the preference would boost retention.

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